Ceased and transferred publications and archiving: best practices and room for improvement

In the process of gathering APC data this spring, I noticed some good and some problematic practices with respect to journals that have ceased or transferred publisher.

There is no reason to be concerned about OA journals that do not last forever. Some scholarly journals publish continuously for an extended period of time, decades or even centuries. Others publish for a while and then stop. This is normal. A journal that is published largely due to the work of one or two editors may cease to publish when the editor(s) retire. Research fields evolve; not every specialized journal is needed as a publication venue in perpetuity. Journals transfer from one publisher to another for a variety of reasons. Now that there are over 11,000 fully open access journals (as listed in DOAJ), and some open access journals and publishers have been publishing for years or even decades, it is not surprising that some open access journals have ceased to publish new material.

The purpose of this post is to highlight some good practices when journals cease, some situations to avoid, and room for improvement in current practice. In brief, my advice is that when you cease to publish a journal, it is a good practice to continue to list the journal on your website, continue to provide access to content (archived on your website or another such as CLOCKSS, a LOCKKS network, or other archiving services such as national libraries that may be available to you), and link the reader interested in the journal to where the content can be found.

This is an area where even the best practices to date leave some room for improvement. CLOCKSS archiving is a great example of state-of-the-art but CLOCKSS’ statements and practice indicate some common misunderstandings about copyright and Creative Commons licenses. In brief, author copyright and CC licenses and journal-level CC licensing are not compatible. Third parties such as CLOCKSS should not add CC licenses as these are waivers of copyright. CC licenses may be useful tools for archives, however archiving requires archives; the licenses on their own are not sufficient for this purpose.

I have presented some solutions and suggestions to move forward below, and peer review and further suggestions are welcome.

Details and examples

Dove Medical Press is a model of good practice in this respect. For example, if you click on the title link for Dove’s Clinical Oncology in Adolescents and Young Adults a pop-up springs up with the following information:

“Clinical Oncology in Adolescents and Young Adults ceased publishing in January 2017. All new submissions can be made to Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics. All articles that have been published in Clinical Oncology in Adolescents and Young Adults will continue to be available on the Dove Press site, and will be securely archived with CLOCKSS”.

Because the content is still available via Dove’s website, the journal is not included on the CLOCKSS’ list of triggered content. This is because CLOCKKS releases archived content when it is no longer available from the publisher’s own website.

CLOCKSS Creative Commons licensing statement and practice critique

One critique for CLOCKSS: – from the home page:  “CLOCKSS is for the entire world’s benefit. Content no longer available from any publisher (“triggered content”) is available for free. CLOCKSS uniquely assigns this abandoned and orphaned content a Creative Commons license to ensure it remains available forever”.

This reflects some common misperceptions with respect to Creative Commons licenses. As stated on the Creative Commons “share your work” website:  [your emphasis added] “Use Creative Commons tools to help share your work. Our free, easy-to-use copyright licenses provide a simple, standardized way to give you permission to share and use your creative work— on conditions of your choice“.

The CLOCKSS statement  “CLOCKSS uniquely assigns this abandoned and orphaned content a Creative Commons license to ensure it remains available forever” is problematic for two reasons.

1. This does not actually reflect CLOCKSS’ practice. The Creative Commons statements associated with triggered content indicate publisher rather than CLOCKSS’ CC licenses. For example, the license statement for the Journal of Pharmacy Teaching on the CLOCKSS website states: “The JournalPharmacyTeaching content is copyright Taylor and Francis and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License”.

2. This would be even more problematic if it did reflect CLOCKSS’ practice. This is because CLOCKSS is not an author or publisher of the scholarly journals and articles included in CLOCKSS. Creative Commons provides a means for copyright owners to indicate willingness to share their work. When a third party such as CLOCKSS uses CC licenses, they are explicitly or implicitly claiming copyright it order to waive their rights under copyright. This reflects an expansion rather than limitation of copyright that may lead to the opposite of what is intended. For example, if one third party is a copyright owner that wishes to claim copyright in order to grant broad-based downstream rights, another third party could use the copyright claim to support their right to claim copyright in order to lock down others’ works. A third party that is a copyright owner providing free access today could use this copyright claim in future as a rationale for toll access. This could come into play if in future toll access seems more desirable from a business perspective.

The CLOCKSS practice of publisher-level copyright (see 1. above) is problematic because Creative Commons first release of CC licenses was in December 2002. Scholarly journal publishing predates 2002 (the first scholarly journals were published in 1665), and not every journal uses CC licenses even today. Retroactive journal-level CC licensing would require re-licensing of every article that was published prior to the journal’s first use of CC licensing.

For example, the copyright statements of volume 1 dated 1990 on the PDFs of the CLOCKSS-triggered Journal of Pharmacy Teaching read: “Journal of Pharmacy Teaching, Vol. l(1)1990 (C) 1990 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved”. This suggests that all authors in this journal at this point in time assigned full copyright to The Haworth Press, although actual practice was probably more complex. For example, if any authors were working for the U.S. federal government at the time, their work would have been public domain by U.S. government policy. Any portions of third party works included would likely have had separate copyright. Even assuming the simplest scenario, all authors had and transferred all rights under copyright to Haworth Press, the authors would retain moral rights, hence it would be necessary to contact all of the authors to obtain their permission to re-license the works under Creative Commons licenses.

The idea of journal-level CC licensing is at odds with the idea of author copyright. This confusion is common. For example, the website of the Open Access Scholarly Publisher’s Association Licensing FAQ states: “one of the criteria for membership is that a publisher must use a liberal license that encourages the reuse and distribution of content” and later “Instead of transferring rights exclusively to publishers (the approach usually followed in subscription publishing), authors grant a non-exclusive license to the publisher to distribute the work, and all users and readers are granted rights to reuse the work”. If copyright and CC licenses really do belong to the authors, then journal-level Creative Commons license statements are incorrect.

Even more room for improvement

The above, while leaving some room for improvement, appears to reflect best practices at the present time. Other approaches leave even more room for improvement. For example, in 2016 Sage acquired open access publisher Libertas Academica. The titles that Sage has continued can now be found on the Sage website. The Libertas Academica titles that Sage no longer publishes can be found as trigged content on the CLOCKSS website. However, the original Libertas Academica website no longer exists and there is no indication of where to find these titles from the Sage website.

Titles that were formerly published by BioMedCentral are simply no longer listed on the BMC list of journals. For example, if you would like to know where to find Gigascience, formerly published by BMC, you can find information at the site of the current publisher, Oxford. A note on the SpringerLink page indicates that BMC maintains an archive of content on its website. However, if you look for Gigascience on the BMC journal list, it simply is not listed. It would be an improvement to follow the practice of Dove and include the title, link to the archived content, and provide a link to the current publisher.

Solutions? Some suggestions

If journals and publishers were encouraged to return copyright to the authors when a journal is no longer published, or a book is no longer being actively marketed (in addition to using their existing rights to archive and make works freely available), then authors, if they chose to do so, could release new versions of their works. For example, a work currently available in PDF could be re-released in XML to facilitate text and data-mining, or perhaps updated versions, and authors could, if desired, release new versions with more liberal licenses than journal-level licenses that must of necessity fit the lowest common denominator (the author least willing or able to share).

Education, among the existing open access community, and beyond is needed. First, we need to understand the perhaps unavoidable micro level nature of at least some elements of copyright under conditions of re-use of material. For example, if a CC-BY licensed image by one photographer or artist is included in a scholarly article written by a different person that is also CC-BY licensed, the moral rights, including attribution, are different for the copyright holder of the image and that of the author of the article. In academia, attribution and moral rights are essential to our careers.

The intersection of plagiarism and copyright is different in academia. If one musical composer copies another’s work, copyright law is likely the go-to remedy. If a student presents someone else’s work as their own, academic procedures for dealing with plagiarism will apply, regardless of the copyright status of the work. For example, the musician using a public domain work need not worry about copyright but the student using a public domain work without attribution is guilty of plagiarism and likely to face serious consequences. Evolving norms for other types of creators (amateur or professional photographers, video game developers) may not work for academia.

For CLOCKSS, a statement that all triggered content is made freely available to the public, and that additional rights may be available for some works, with advice to look at the work in question to understand re-use rights, would be an improvement.

Your comments and suggestions?

This is an area where even today’s best practices are wanting, and the solutions / suggestions listed above are intended as an invitation to open a conversation on potential emerging practices that may take some time to fully figure out. Peer review and suggestions are welcome, via the comments section or e-mail. If you are using e-mail, please let me know if I may transfer the content to this post and if so whether you would like to be attributed or not.

This post is cross-posted to my Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics scholarly blog and forms part of the Creative Commons and Open Access Critique series. Comments and suggestions are welcome on either blog.


Taylor & Francis 2017 Data

Abstract: Taylor & Francis is one of several major, traditionally commercial, scholarly publishers that is moving to the Open access space. Taylor & Francis publishes 2,550 journals and now has a major part of them available for Gold Open Access. 150 journal published by Taylor & Francis are in fully open access.

Around 77% of fully open access journals have an APC, but only 1% of those have an APC in DOAJ. Of the APCs available in DOAJ, 54% varies from the APCs found in Taylor & Francis. Less than 3% of fully open access journals have an APPC.

At least 7 journals published by Taylor & Francis do not have publications fees.

The APC average for fully open is 794.55 GBP (including only the 106 journals with APCs), for hybrid is 1574.38 GBP and for subscription was not calculated because only three journals had APCs.

These averages are higher than the APC average for 2016 of 702.74 GBP (converted with the Bank of Canada currency converter (on March 21st, 2017)). (Excluding journals with an APC of $0).

T&F Pie Chart 2017

See full text here

Taylor & Francis 2016

With over 2,500 journals, Taylor & Francis, is one of the largest academic publishers in the world. For this reason, we are interested in the Open Access (OA) models they are using, as well as how they deal with copyright.

Taylor & Francis Journals

Taylor & Francis journals currently fall under three categories: Open (Fully OA), Open Select (Hybrid OA) and Subscription (Not OA). Fully Open or Pure open access journals means that all of the articles in these journals are OA. For these journals, an article publishing charge (APC) is often applicable. Their Open Select option is a hybrid option meaning that an author can publish in a subscription journal and pay a charge, usually an APC or an article page processing charge (APPC) to make their article freely available online upon publication.  The final category, Subscription, allows for Green Open Access, which is the archiving of an article on a website or in a repository. This is allowed for the accepted version of an article, which has been through peer review and has been accepted, but isn’t the final published article. This option is offered after an embargo period. The chart below shows the breakdown of the number of journals for each of these categories.  The Open Select option accounts for most of the journals at 91%, while 93 (4%) journals are fully OA.


Of the fully open journals, 17/93 (18%) do not charge APCs.  Additionally, APCs could not be found for 5 journals.  The APCs of the journals that were found to charge them range from $200-$2000 in US dollars (USD) with the average being $922 and the mode being $1200. Some journals in this category have a different APC based on the length of the article and the type of creative commons license being used, these prices were not factored in to the average listed above.

An interesting model is being used by one group of fully OA journals by Cogent OA. Cogent journals, which account for 15/93 of the fully OA journals from Taylor & Francis operate a ‘pay what you want’ model.  This means that authors are allowed to choose how much they contribute towards OA publishing based on their financial circumstances. Authors have the opportunity to state how much they want to contribute, if accepted for publication, during the submission process.  In order to guarantee the integrity of peer review, the APC process is managed by the Cogent OA publishing team and not by journal editors or reviewers. Cogent OA states, “We believe strongly in the benefits of open access to scientific research and scholarship, and our APC policy is intended to help remove any barriers to its take-up around the world – leading to greater research impact for all.”

The APCs for the hybrid model were quite a bit higher than the ones for fully OA journals.  2142/2284 (94%) of these journals charge an APC of $2,950 USD (£1,788,  €2,150). The rest of the journals in this category either charge a lower APC or charge an APPC instead.

Taylor & Francis: Copyright Statements

When publishing with a Taylor & Francis subscription journal,  they ask the author to assign copyright to them. Alternatively, any author can also opt to retain their own copyright and sign a licence to publish. If the author chooses to assign copyright to Taylor & Francis, the author is asked to sign a publishing agreement.

In the case of open access journals it appears that Taylor & Francis is using the same author nominal copyright approach we first noticed when looking at Elsevier this year. Following is the text from the T&F Author Services page. An exclusive license to publish is in effect a transfer of virtually all rights under copyright, with the copyright in the name of the author, hence “author nominal copyright”.

Open access Creative Commons licenses

We ask you to sign a publishing agreement to establish the originality and provenance of your article and to give us the exclusive right to publish [emphasis added] the Version of Record of your article; you (the author) retain copyright. This agreement incorporates the Creative Commons license of your choice, which will dictate what others can do with your article once it has been published.

Copyright statements tend to vary from journal to journal for Taylor & Francis’ OA journals.  For example,  Acta Biomaterialia Odontologica‘s Instructions for Authors document states, “The copyright will remain with the Authors for articles published under this Open Access model, and once a paper has been accepted for publication, Informa will ask authors for a license to publish.”

Similarly Acta Oto-Laryngologica Case Reports states, “All contributing authors are asked to grant Taylor & Francis the right to publish her or his article as the final, definitive, and citable Version of Scholarly Record. Authors are required to sign an Open Access Article Publishing Agreement to facilitate this. Articles published in Acta Oto-Laryngologica Case Reports are published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence which permits others to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. Authors do however have the choice of opting for the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial Licence should they so choose. Reuse conditions will be subject to the license type chosen by the author.”

The Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology requires authors to assign the right to publish their texts both electronically and in any other format they see fit, along with the right to store manuscripts in an electronic archive to the journal, Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology. They go on to state, “Once published, authors may disseminate their papers (final, accepted and peer-reviewed PDF version) in whatever way they wish, within the terms set out in the Creative Commons Licence 4.0. The IPJP has adopted the CC BY-NC-ND licensing agreement. Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. Accordingly, authors may post a copy of the PDF of their published article to their institutional repository or to any departmental or personal website, etc., subject to acknowledging its publication in the Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology.”

In contrast to these above statements Journal of Drug Assessment states, “Articles are published with the understanding that their copyright be assigned to the Publisher once they are accepted. If any material used is subject to third-party copyright, copyright clearance is the sole responsibility of the authors and must be supplied in writing to the Publisher. Corresponding authors will be sent a copyright form to sign upon acknowledgment of their paper.”

These copyright statements are a small sample of how OA journals published by Taylor & Francis handle copyright.  As they all differ, it is important for authors to understand their options and submit to journals accordingly.  It may be assumed that authors retain their copyright when publishing in OA journals, but this is not always the case.